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Scottish Government accused of “ducking responsibility” on HIE

Tavish Scott MSP
Tavish Scott MSP

A north MSP has accused the Scottish Government of “ducking responsibility” after they refused to release ministerial correspondence about Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Scottish Government officials failed to respond to a request for information from the Scottish Liberal Democrats about plans to abolish the HIE board for two months after the statutory limit.

It was argued that the request – for copies of all ministerial and official communications on SNP ministers’ plans for HIE – failed the “public interest test”.

The party is now appealing to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Shetland Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott, who has been campaigning to keep HIE local, demanded that the government release the information.

Mr Scott said: “The government should publish or be damned. By ducking scrutiny people will think they have something to hide.

“This latest refusal to release information on the controversial plans to centralise HIE by abolishing the board is a disappointing development.

“Time and again, like wrestling with jelly, Liberal Democrats have questioned SNP Ministers over these proposals. We already know no one proposed or supported his plans for a new overarching board.

“Now, with this latest failure to be transparent, the Government evidently has more to hide.

“The SNP have got this wrong. Parliament has done the Cabinet Secretary’s thinking for him. It is the expressed will of Parliament to retain the current powers of HIE. He has no option but to respect that decision.”

The government has plans to remove HIE’s board and create a panel overseeing all of Scotland’s enterprise and skills agencies.

Critics claimed it would undermine 50 years of progress in the north.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “As a part of the Enterprise and Skills Review, HIE will continue to be locally-based, managed and directed, providing dedicated support to the local economy.

“The creation of a strategic board is just one part of a programme to enhance services for businesses across the Highlands and Islands and beyond.

“Ministers will make a statement to parliament on the next steps in the coming weeks.”

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